For the second month in a row, hundreds of elephants have invaded farms along their migratory path in Kerio Valley traversing Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot and Turkana counties.
The problem has been exacerbated by the ongoing dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed by the government to restore calm following increased bandit attacks, which has prevented locals from guarding their farms at night. Locals now want Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to act swiftly and drive away the animals from their farms and compensate them. They are living in fear of being attacked.
“I had over 400 banana trees and 280 pawpaws trees which the elephants destroyed,” one of the farmers, Mr Nixon Changwony, told the Nation yesterday.
The most affected areas are Kaben, Endo, Talai, Koibirir, Mokoro, Murkutwo, Mon and Arror.
Each year between June and September, the elephants migrate from Nasalot Game Reserve in Turkana County to Rimoi Game Reserve in Elgeyo Marakwet for their mating season. Mr Wilfred Minanyang, the chairman of a 50-acre irrigation scheme in Talai location, said the local community depends entirely on their farms for food and to earn a living.
“The only hope we have is for the government to compensate us. The compensation issue has dragged on and we are still waiting for payment for crops destroyed last year,” he said.
“To avert a humanitarian crisis in the area, the government should move with speed and compensate the farmers besides relocating the marauding elephants to the nearest game reserves,” another farmer, Mr Richard Komen, said.
Endo Ward agricultural officer Benjamin Sum said that the value of the destroyed crops is over Sh51 million.
“Hunger is now looming. The elephants invade farms at night and retreat to the bushes during the day. We have helped farmers file compensation claim forms,” he said.
Tourism and Wildlife Chief Administrative Secretary Joseph Boinett said the elephants have become a menace in Kerio valley and that the government would fast-track compensation especially for cases that have been concluded.
“As a mitigation, we have sent a team of KWS rangers and Problematic Animal Management Unit (Pamu) officers to complement officers in the region in managing the animals.”
“An aircraft has been deployed to undertake an aerial survey to locate the animals. Several vehicles have also been deployed. We are optimistic that the animals will be rerouted to their habitats soon,” Mr Boinett said.
He asked affected farmers to fill in compensation claim forms for them to get paid, saying payment for previous damages was also being processed. Pamu is a unit of KWS that handles cases of wild animals that stray from the park.